"Can I help?" said Antony politely.
"Something's happened," said Cayley. He was breathing quickly. "I heard a shot--it sounded like a shot--I was in the library. A loud bang—I didn't know what it was. And the door's locked." He rattled the handle again, and shook it. "Open the door!" he cried. "I say, Mark, what is it? Open the door!"
When you think of A A Milne you of course picture Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin et al. What you don’t think of is a detective novel and a well crafted whodunit. But the Red House is exactly that.
I was lucky enough to win a Vintage competition to receive books each month for a year and this was the first one that came through the letterbox.
It might show its age because of the 1930s dialogue and some of the social conventions about class but that aside it is a gentle and thoroughly though through detective story.
The twist, and Milne displays with references plenty of knowledge of the genre and the importance of the twist, is that the detective in this case is a novice. Anthony is to a degree playing with the idea of being a sleuth when he turns up and is one of the key witnesses to the moment when a crime is discovered. With a great deal of logic he picks apart the case and raises some fundamental questions about what actually happened in the locked room.
Against a backdrop of a weekend at a country house a tale of jealously mixed in with a few chips on shoulders and revenge are mixed into a lethal combination.
Anthony picks his way through the different relationships and by deliberately taking an independent line is able to crack the case.
Milne clearly knows a great deal about detective fiction with references to Sherlock Holmes but makes sure his additional to the whodunit canon is done with a great deal of respect. He puts in just the right mix of suspense, drama and humour to make this an enjoyable read.
If one of the tests of a book is whether or not you would want to read another by the same author then this passes because you would be quite happy to read on about the adventures of the aspiring detective.